Mass Timber Buildings: The US Fire Service Experience

Ivan Harbour
Senior Partner
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, London

In response to an unsuccessful code change proposal to the 2018 International Building Code to permit Mass Timber Buildings of nine stories, the National Fire Protection Association and International Code Council, initiated study groups to understand the potential performance of Tall Timber Buildings under fire conditions and to determine if greater heights could be permited.

The work groups understood there are a number of market drivers as it applies to Mass Timber interest. The work being conducted was not just North american centric but could have an impact as there has been global interest in the development of this method of construction. The work group was multi-disciplined and worked over a two-year period in developing the tests and subsequent reports.

This presentation is a summary of this work from a Fire Service perspective by a member of both committee efforts. We will review testing that was conducted at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms laboratories with lessons learned. The presentation will include a review of the resulting code changes propogated forward by the ICC Tall Wood Building Ad Hoc Committee. These thirteen code change proposals resulted with revisions to the Height and Area Tables and established multiple classes of Type IV construction and an increased hieght and area permitted in these classes whiole leaving the traditional Mass Timber classification untouched.

The fire service participated on the discussions and efforts of the ICC TWB Ad Hoc Committee. This presentation will review the additional safety provisions required for Mass Timber and why these requirements were critical for the fire service in the advancement of these changes.

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